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Perhaps playing down his chances somewhat, as he is often prone to doing before major targets, Alberto Contador has said that he is still fatigued after his victory in the Giro d’Italia and has only done limited training thus far.
“Physically and muscularly I still feel the wear from the Giro, especially that of the final week, which was very hard,” he said. “As a result, I tried above all to rest as much as possible during this time. I focused on recovering and I have only done three days of specific training to activate my body.”
Contador clocked up his seventh Grand Tour when he won the Giro d’Italia earlier this month, beating runner-up Fabio Aru by one minute 53 seconds and the latter’s Astana team-mate Mikel Landa by three minutes and five seconds.
He appeared to weaken dramatically on the final mountain stage and after the conclusion of the event said that he took 15 days of active rest in order to try to recover.
Contador is trying to become the first rider to win the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in the same season since Marco Pantani in 1998.
He also attempted the double in 2011 but after winning the Giro [a victory he later lost due to his positive test for Clenbuterol in the 2010 Tour de France], he was only fifth in the 2011 Tour.
The memory of that fatigue makes him wary about making predictions about the French race, but he said that he is highly motivated to try to take yellow to Paris.
“I see it [his Tour prospects] with uncertainty, but also with the motivation to experience something that is new to me,” he said. “I’m mentally very excited and motivated with this challenge.”
However, at this point in time, he emphasises that he is still trying to get over the Giro.
“Physically, when I get up, my legs still hurt, I feel some muscle fatigue, but this is normal,” he said. “If it were easy, I wouldn’t have this motivation. On second thoughts, there are still more days ahead to recover than days that have passed since the end of the Giro. I hope to reach the start in top condition.”
Contador went to his hometown of Pinto after taking the victory and celebrated there with friends and family. After that he went to Lugano and then to Livigno and spent time there recovering.
“It’s a good place, with iconic mountain passes very close, such as Gavia and Stelvio, but also with the possibility to train in flat terrain at an altitude of 1,800 meters,” he said.
“I took advantage of this to prepare my return to competition, although I will face this race in a more relaxed mode.”
Unlike Pantani and, before him, Stephen Roche, who took a long break from competition between the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France successes in 1998 and 1987 respectively, Contador will return to competition prior to the Tour.
He will line out in the Route du Sud, a race which begins Thursday and runs until Sunday.
He describes his prospects as unknown. “I can’t know now in what form I will be. I took great care of all the details, both rest and nutrition, which is somewhat complicated because you have to eat little, just the opposite of what happens in a competition,” he said.
“The most important thing is that I look forward to racing in the Route du Sud because it will give me speed in the legs and I will be in motion again. Surely, it will take some time to ramp up, but I have a good foundation and this will allow me to carry out a good training in racing mode.”
Tour de France rival Nairo Quintana (Movistar) will also be racing there. It is uncertain if Contador will try to score a psychological point by going for a result or if he will be content to hold back and simply use the race to turn his legs in competition in order help his build-up for the Tour.